Unemployed Australians:

Peter Lloyd writes: Thank you Annemarie O’Reilly (yesterday, comments) for highlighting an invisible, unpublicised issue that affects thousands of Australian workers, in particular males who have been the losers from the reforms of the past 30 years.

The credentialling industry has been allowed to get completely out of hand, and exists far more for its own sake than to improve and certify the actual skills of employees in Australia.  TAFEs and universities test the ability of students to negotiate arcane bureaucracy and pay the massive costs, both direct and opportunity, but are constantly handing qualifications to people who simply should not have them.

This burden, as Ms O’Reilly points out, falls squarely on older men whose skills are often self-taught, and often of far higher calibre than those of “qualified” tradesmen whose experience is far narrower and of shorter duration. They are often locked completely out of “administrative” industries where persistence at the course work will produce a certificate and job, regardless, seemingly, of the actual ability of the candidate.

Recognition of self-developed skills is non-existent to the institutions, who want only to take money for their dumbed-down subjects, and in any case men working on the lowest wages in society can’t take a year or two off to participate in a charade. Indeed, tolerating the time-wasting processes and obliviousness to their futility usually seems to be the most important prerequisite for success. But these traits are seldom found in people of genuine ability at, well, anything.

These men are then told they are ‘”unskilled” and shunned by employment agencies and government alike, and the loss of each insecure job will throw them back to the bottom of the heap, as the workplace itself is the only place they can gain respect and recognition. Even then, promotion will be out of the question without engaging with the dumb, bureaucratic and arcane TAFE system, its courses padded out with irrelevant subjects on “team building” and “workplace partnerships”. Actual aptitude for the work in question? Not an issue.

It would be far better to subsidise companies to do the training themselves. It can’t be that hard. They used to do it all the time.

Julian Assange:

John Richardson writes: Re. “‘Autorite judiciaire’: Assange undone by the French” (yesterday, item 1). Busy learning first-hand why the law is such an ass, Julian Assange would have been blissfully unaware of the attack launched on him yesterday by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr.

Fresh from his stunning victory in dispatching two helpless Syrian diplomats, Labor’s latter-day Metternich turned the full force of his awful hyperbole on Australia’s hapless public enemy number one, booming: “No Australian has received more consular support in a comparable period than Mr Assange”.

Of course, anyone harbouring doubts about the efficacy of Bob’s claims might be tempted to place more store in the behaviour of our Prime Minister who, on the one hand, found time to make a reassuring personal telephone call to an Australian teenager actually charged with drug offences in Indonesia and then recently made a public plea to the Indonesian government to agree to send convicted drug smuggler Schappelle Corby home whilst, on the other, going out of her way to publicly accuse Assange of having “acted illegally”, even though the man hasn’t actually been charged with any offence in any jurisdiction.

But then, I suppose if we were to rely on the experiences of David Hicks or Mamdouh Habib as the “benchmark”, perhaps Bob’s flamboyant claim just might be true?

Fairfax strike:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. I don’t think that a fall in Fairfax shares over a few years is really the best evidence for a new media “world where journalists no longer have any industrial muscle”. The basic problem is a long-term decline in advertising revenue. That’s not a problem with journalism as such.

And while industrial action can be difficult in a declining industry, look at the example of the MUA, which remains a powerful union despite the whittling away of the maritime workforce over the past century.